In this blog, I argue that public investments can create new resources and bring up the question of cheapness versus quality in social care.
We invited two social care teams to participate in a webinar.
One of them was responsible for Prevention Matters. This is a £4 million programme led by Buckinghamshire County Council in the UK. Its aim is to support adults under the substantial need threshold. An example of this is someone who can live independently, and will probably continue to do so in the near future, but needs help with cooking once a day.
The other team was responsible for the Home Independence Program. This is an initiative led by the local authorities in Perth, Australia, which aims to assist older people living in the community to remain healthy and independent. It takes place at home and supports those who have just been discharged from hospital, among many others.
Both teams know that there will not be enough taxpayers’ money in the future to meet the needs of the type of people they support. This is partly because there will be more of these people and fewer taxpayers as society grows older.
At the webinar, we facilitated discussions between the two teams about ways in which social care can achieve results at a lower cost to the taxpayer. An option is to involve people who are not qualified social care staff, including:
• Social care users themselves, for example, someone participates in a befriending project for a year and afterwards maintains and develops new friendships independently; and
• Volunteers, who can supplement the work of qualified staff, once properly trained.
Prevention Matters users start their participation in the programme by receiving advice from practitioners known as Community Practice Workers. After this, they gradually move on to other activities led by a wider network of third-sector organisations, self-funded community groups, and volunteers who supplement the work of the Community Practice Workers.
Our estimate is that the £4 million that taxpayers invest in the Prevention Matters programme will be matched by slightly more than £4 million’s worth of resources from the community, including the value of the time that programme users, self-funded community groups, and volunteers are giving to the programme. We estimated this based on research we did with all the people involved in the programme.
Experiences like Prevention Matters show that involving the community in the delivery of public services can be a way of creating new resources, or at least focusing available resources on the areas where the public sector is struggling the most.
The question remains whether these resources achieve acceptable results. If the answer to this is that community resources are less effective than, for example, publicly or privately managed resources, then there might be a case for reconsidering whether involving the community is as good an idea as it looks like.
If you have taken the time to read this blog, I would be grateful if you could leave a comment expressing your opinion briefly.